Australia has set a compliance date of 12 December 2013 for the introduction of automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast in its upper airspace after scaling back a more ambitious and faster implementation plan.

ADS-B is expected to deliver significant operational, safety and financial benefits to civil aviation, says the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's notice of final rule making (NFRM), which was published this month. ADS-B will be introduced above flight level 290 and will extend over continental Australia, much of which is outside radar coverage, and significant parts of oceanic airspace within its flight information region - "a very significant safety advancement", says the NFRM.

The NFRM details a far less ambitious move to ADS-B than proposed in the Joint Consultation Paper proposed by the Department of Transport and Regional Services, Airservices Australia, CASA and the Department of Defence in 2007. The paper proposed a two-phase implementation from 2012 that would have involved lower airspace as well, affecting general aviation and sport and recreational operators.

A total of 254 responses were received to the paper, with concerns raised about timeframes, cost and operational implications, particularly for sports/recreational and GA operators. In response to the latter, a cross-industry subsidy scheme had been proposed, but that is not viable because of local taxation issues.

The NFRM largely addresses concerns raised by respondents to the consultation paper, says CASA. Australia now plans a more gradual transition, taking into account developments in Europe and the USA, as well as the outcome of the government's current Aviation White Paper process, says the NFRM.

Under the new plan, 2013 was selected as it gives operators almost five years to comply, which is considered adequate. Some 60% of all international flights in Australian airspace are already conducted by aircraft equipped with ADS-B, says CASA.

The implementation date also brings Australia more in line with international ADS-B developments, with Europe setting a 1 January 2012 deadline and a number of South-East Asian nations planning implementation at a similar time. It is ahead of the USA's 2020 date, but CASA notes that the USA already has virtually continuous radar coverage in the upper airspace.

ADS-B in upper airspace will have four major benefits, according to the NFRM. It will provide greater airspace capacity due to the reduction in ATC separation standards from 50nm (93km) laterally and longitudinally to 5nm improved safety through radar-like surveillance over the continent less holding of aircraft at non-preferred levels thus improving efficiency of operations on flexi-tracks and reduced fuel burn as a result of less holding at non-preferred levels.

Source: Flight International